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IMDB description: “A man in his thirties travels to a remote cabin to reconnect with his estranged father.”
Healthy! I’ve always had a soft spot for Elijah Wood (used to get a lot of ‘You really look like…’ comparisons around the time of The Faculty/Lord of the Rings), which only grew when he started producing and starring in high-concept horror thrillers like Maniac (2012), and Grand Piano (2013) and debuting them at my favorite film festival, Sitges.
I also loved his hilariously unhinged turn in Netflix’s I Don’t Feel at Home in this World Anymore (2017) alongside the excellent Melanie Lynsky. Come to Daddy seemed to promise more of Wood at his bug-eyed comedic best, so I was fully on board.
Why I Took It off the List
I really wanted to see this at last year’s Sitges fest but didn’t get round to it, and saw the trailer again recently and decided I had to check it out.
The trailer promised a fairly simple horror-comedy set-up with the chance to see Wood do some quality freaking out, so I corralled a fellow Elijah-loving friend to meet up and finally watch it.
Spoilers? Nope! I may include spoilers in some reviews but not in this one. If I do include spoilers, I’ll give you fair warning.
Review of Come to Daddy
As noted in my review of Midsommar on Day 3, I really love it in this age of over-saturated information when a film upends your expectations from its marketing materials. Come to Daddy is another film that delivers so much more than what is hinted at in the trailer and delivers an extremely enjoyable, pleasant surprise.
Wood plays the brilliantly-named Norval Greenwood, who arrives at (an awesomely designed) isolated beachfront property owned by his estranged father, in an attempt to get to know the old man for the first time.
He’s not entirely certain about the encounter, as it was ol’ pop himself who sent the letter asking him to come, and, from the first time he appears trying to trundle his chic suitcase over a rocky beach, he is clearly out of his element.
By the time he gets to the front door, it becomes even clearer that Norval and his dear old dad have little in common. Although the exchange starts friendly, the difference between Norval, with his entitled, hipster sensibilities, and his gruff, off-the-grid father makes it clear that conflict is going to arise.
It’s to the script’s immense credit, though, that you are never quite sure where things are going, and the perfectly balanced awkward comedy and tension in the opening scenes catch you off-guard for what develops in the rest of the film.
Wood, with his wide eyes and excellence at portraying a nervy disposition, is in many ways the perfect actor to lead a horror-comedy and I feel like he should do a lot more (he did make Cooties in 2015, but I have yet to see!).
With his leather bum bag, hipster haircut, and a Japanese neck tattoo, Wood is both recognizable and sympathetic and fun to laugh at as Norval, and his escalating panic at the strange situation developing around him is incredibly fun to watch.
Stephen McHattie, so great in the underrated, unique horror Pontypool (2008), is an ideal foil for Wood as his clearly unstable host and seems to be having a lot of fun switching from a hippie-dad stereotype to a more manic and sinister father figure.
The supporting roles are also expertly filled, with Madeleine Sami playing a rather unconventional love interest for Norval who helps to illuminate his rather clueless nature.
Also, Garfield Wilson completely steals the show in just a couple of scenes as a wacky cop with some interesting theories.
Martin Donovan also appears in a key role, but to say who he’s playing would be a major spoiler, so I encourage you to watch the film for yourself to find out!
Enjoyably Bonkers Twists
Like I said above, Come to Daddy takes you to some quite surprising and outlandish places during its runtime that should not be spoiled, so I will mostly keep my mouth shut.
I will say it ultimately has a similar tone to Bad Times at the El Royale (2018), which I reviewed on Day 1, in that it hits you with one outlandish revelation after another, but they are presented with such a fun manic energy and glee that they totally work.
Though shot in New Zealand, you wouldn’t really be able to tell from the film’s well-executed Pacific Northwest setting, except perhaps in one late scene, as the production design and attention to detail are spot-on.
All in all, a very enjoyable horror-comedy-thriller hybrid which gives Wood another opportunity to shine.
Final score: 7/10
Worth Checking out?
Come to Daddy (2019)
Directed by Ant Timpson
Written by Toby Harvard, Ant Timpson (story)
Check out my next review, in which I check out a well-regarded arthouse horror flick.